2017-02-15 / Community View


Words, actions matter; civility must prevail

Late last month a Lapeer woman came home from work to find her front door defaced with a swastika — a terrifying symbol that should disgust all area residents to see it show up in our community. But to a person of Jewish faith, in particular, it’s a frightening reminder of the Holocaust when people were branded, labeled and killed because of their religious beliefs.

But it’s bigger than that, if that’s possible.

The swastika has morphed into a universal symbol of hate. Today it’s used as an epithet against African- Americans, Hispanics and gays, as well as Jews, because it is a symbol which frightens.

The swastika symbol, a symmetrical, hooked cross sacred to Hindus and Buddhists, was appropriated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party and became the defining motif of anti-Jewish hatred. It is still the contemporary calling card of many neo-Nazi groups.

The vile symbol spray-painted on Erin Zettle’s door should anger all of us. One doesn’t have to be religious to be insulted or shocked by its appearance here.

Police have no leads in their investigation. And so it’s possible we may never know who brought the Nazi hate symbol to the doorsteps of Zettle’s home, and that’s too bad. Whoever did this needs to be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law — not only to deter this person from future hate speech or violence, but to send a message that this sort of bigotry has no place in our community.

Nearly as bad as the incident itself, so is some of the response I’ve heard from some people in the days and weeks since it happened.

One man said, “What did you expect? You know she’s a Democrat? She brought it on herself by taunting Republicans with her Hillary Clinton campaign signs.”

I was dumbfounded. Are you kidding me?

Three individuals who talked to me on the phone or via email essentially characterized the swastika incident as “harmless graffiti.” “Probably just some dumb kid!”

Since the hate symbol was discovered, six people have told me the paper and “bleeding heart liberals” are making too much of an “isolated” incident, and another three went as far to say the swastika is “free speech” … protected by the First Amendment.

Again, wow!

It’s one thing for people to demonstrate in a public place like a courthouse square or on a downtown street corner while carrying a neo-Nazi flag, but quite another to deface someone’s private property like their front door with a swastika. It’s malicious destruction of property at the least, and a hate crime at the worst.

Hate and anger are two of the most destructive emotions people or nations can hold. Words and actions matter. So does the appearance of a hate symbol.

Let’s hope we never see it again.

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